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National UFO Reporting Center
Sighting Report
Occurred : 9/1/2001 16:30 (Entered as : 09/01/01 16:30)
Reported: 1/7/2009 1:36:59 PM 13:36
Posted: 1/10/2009
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Shape: Fireball
Duration:appx 5 min
Dense white unusual and persisten contrail with reddish fireball at tip resembled spacecraft reentry.

My wife and I were walking near the intersection of Second and Bainbridge streets in Philadelphia on a clear, cloudless late afternoon when I noticed a very dense and unusual contrail appearing above buildings to the SE, moving on a heading more or less parallel to the Delaware River, which runs ~SSW to NNE at that point.

The contrail seemed much wider and denser than a normal contrail, and had no gap in the center as is typical of normal airliner trails. It was moving at about the normal speed of a high-altitude jet or perhaps somewhat faster, and seemed to be at the height of a normal jet at cruising altitude, but possibly higher - very hard to tell with no reference points.

At the head of the trail was a small but very obvious fiery reddish ball. It may have been the reflection of the late-afternoon sun on a plane, but I've seen many, many airliners under these conditions and this looked different. It twinkled and at no time did it appear to change intensity. Usually a strong sun glint on an airliner will vary as the reflection angle changed, but this didn't. It looked exactly like a giant reddish road flare making a dense smoke trail heading more or less toward northern New Jersey.

I say giant because of the size of the trail. It is impossible to estimate the size of the object but it appeared comparable to the size of Venus or Saturn when they're at their largest and most visible. A twinkling, starlike reddish road flare with an immense and persistent white smoke trail. It was unusual enough that we stopped to watch it until it disappeared behind buildings.

It didn't change speed, heading, altitude or intensity, and the motion was very steady. The smoke trail remained for at least several minutes. My thought at the time was that it was a reentry of some satellite, or an unusual meteor.

I recall that there were some unusual meteor incidents in the time frame, but this was not the same as this one, for example:

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/07/23/flash.boom/index.html

http://www.meteorobs.org/maillist/msg22061.html It was shortly before 9/11, if I recall correctly.

There were no other contrails visible at the time, by the way. This was the most obvious thing in the sky.


((NUFORC Note: Source indicates that the date of the sighting is approximate. We are quite familiar with the individual who submitted the report, and we deem him to be an exceptionally capable, and reliable, witness. Date is approximate, and may be amended, in the future. PD))